Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Hugo Chavez is dead. Long live something other than Hugo Chavez's tyranny.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So long, Hugo.

It's something of an understatement to say that I didn't much care for Hugo Chavez. Which isn't to say that I prefer the right-wing plutocratic opposition in Venezuela, which is no better, and possibly worse, than Chavez's left-wing authoritarianism. Suffice it to say that I would prefer a third way, something in between those two extremes.

And perhaps such a third way is possible now that Chavez, and the cult of personality that he brought to his authoritarian rule, is dead. Needless to say, this is a significant historical moment for Venezuela. Will it fully embrace constitutional democracy and individual liberty (if more along the lines of a social as opposed to liberal democracy)? Or will it collapse into strife, the populists and anti-populists fighting over which side deserves to oppress the Venezuelan people?

No, I didn't much care for Chavez, but I wish his country well.


But it's Chavez we're talking about tonight, and I'm going to draw on a post I wrote a few years ago in response to the Chavez regime buying a stake in the country's leading opposition TV network:

Readers of this blog, or who are otherwise familiar with my writing, will know that I detest Hugo Chavez, the Tyrant of Caracas. Whether it's of the left or right, or any other kind, I abhor tyranny, and Chavez has shown over the years that he is very much the tyrant, however much he may spin his authoritarianism as revolutionary populism.

I have written extensively on Chavez's tyranny in Venezuela -- see, for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here -- describing his devious methods of aquiring ever more centralized power as "salami tactics," that is, slice-by-slice. Here's how I put it back in September '07:

[I]t is clear that Hugo Chavez is using salami tactics in his drive to establish so-called "Bolivarean" socialism -- that is, his own national-socialist autocratic rule -- in that country... Sometimes revolution can be achieved without sudden, dramatic bloodletting. There are a number of different prongs to Chavez's continuing revolution, a number of slices. They may be examined individually, but they are best understood as variations of the same, as components of a single overarching plan. The nationalization of industry, the seizure of private property, repression of dissent and opposition, control of the media, one-party rule, rule by decree, and, soon, the removal of constitutional impediments to the permanent and perpetual rule of the leader himself.

The pattern is clear. One slice, then another, and another, and another, with no one slice so grave as to compel anyone to act (although there are courageous opponents of Chavez's tyranny in Venezuela, and there was a coup, if not one worthy of much admiration, in 2002). 

Chavez has a long history of seeking to repress, salami-slice-style, any and all dissent and opposition to his rule, and specifically of seeking to control the outlets of dissent and opposition, particularly private industry and the media.


Look, I'm not saying he was all bad. Obviously, he did a great deal for the poor and disenfranchised, giving them a voice, giving them hope, and actually making their lives better in many ways, and that's a lot more than can be said about most Latin American rulers, or most leaders anywhere.

But the rule of Hugo Chavez was always about Hugo Chavez, and that's where it went wrong. Instead of using his popularity and years of power to establish a more peaceful and prosperous Venezuela with a sustainable future, he used them to entrench his tyranny.

There will be a lot of looking back in the days, weeks, months, and even years to come. Chavez was that towering a figure. But it is also time to embrace the post-Chavez era that is now suddenly upon us. Hopefully the people of Venezuela will find a way to isolate the extremes and begin the long, hard road to a brighter future.


By the way, I'll acknowledge that we don't all think alike on Chavez. See, for example Frank's more or less pro-Chavez post here. I suppose we'll just to agree to disagree, as they say.

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  • I suspect that Chevez's successor is much more likely to take the country in an authoritarian direction. I'm very worried.

    But I think you make it much too easy on the Chavez detractors. The truth is that Chavez made life for the people of Venezuela better than the plutocrats that the oil industry (and thus the US government) prefers. The enormous pressure that the US puts on governments that don't cow to our corporate interests is unacceptable and should be the focus of our anger. What's more, it makes it surprising that Chavez did not become more authoritarian than he did. I would never say he was an angel, but "tyranny"? Really?!

    By Anonymous Frank Moraes, at 10:47 PM  

  • Rare leader Did not bow to global powers..loved by his people and respected by all. I hope Venezuela can give birth to another good leader to its people.

    By Anonymous Dard Shayari, at 7:02 AM  

  • Hugo Chavez was a great leader who worked a lot to improve the life of the people of Venezuela.This made him respected by one and all.Another great quality of this legend was that he did not surrender to the global powers.

    By Anonymous Love Shayari, at 1:39 PM  

  • Its hard to believe that Hugo Chavez is dead.He was a legend. He was no less than God for the public of Venezuela.We all will miss this great personality.

    By Anonymous SMS, at 10:24 AM  

  • Pay rich tributes to the legendary hero who is a symbol of hope to the millions around the world, bringing about tumultous changes to the welfare of his homeland and the continent at large. He outlived the US conspiracies & media propaganda and and served the national wealth to the welfare of its citizens, the move that provoked the champions of 'dmocracy' for fear of losing the oil revenues, like Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. Salute to the patriot leader and an inspiring fighter for the causes of the suppressed in the world.

    By Anonymous Desi Shayar, at 11:50 AM  

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